The multilingual challenge Europe is confronted with has assumed a new dimension. The EU now has 23 official languages. Due to Inter-European mobility, the revitalisation of regions, and migration into Europe, all EU Member States have become multilingual and multicultural societies. Approximately 450 different languages are spoken in Europe today. The new multilingual challenge places heavy demands on enterprise, public authorities, education, society, and the individual. Effective inter-lingual communication is of heightened importance to competitiveness, social cohesion, human rights, and to knowledge creation and transfer, as well as to employability and citizenship. The multilingual challenge is given added weight by the fact that language is an expression of culture, and of personal and social identity, and that it is apt to be perceived and used as an instrument of power.
There are clear indications that the European Commission is aware of the new dimension of the multilingual challenge- hence the appointment of a Commissioner for Multilingualism, hence the launch of a substantial number of new initiatives. However, what is also becoming clear is that there are no simple solutions and ready-made answers.
The Conseil Europeén pour les Langues / European Language Council (CEL/ELC) was founded more than ten years ago by universities and associations resolved to promote individual and societal multilingualism through European co-operation. Through European projects and task forces it has contributed to the development of the area of languages in higher education and of policies at all levels. It closely cooperates with the European Commission and the Council of Europe. It is resolved to play its full part in shaping Europe's multilingual future. This is why it staged the December Forum - to take stock of the new multilingual challenge to prepare the ground for new policies and projects. This is why it launched a scholarly journal devoted to language policy in spring 2009.
The 2008 CEL/ELC Forum brought together representatives of the European institutions, the Council of Europe, higher education institutions, public authorities, groups convened by the Commission, European projects, and other stakeholders. Participants will discuss new practices and changing needs in inter-lingual communication. They will hear about new policy documents and projects. They will consider to what extent these initiatives are designed to help Europe meet the new multilingual challenge, and they will reflect on policies and actions required for the second decade of the twenty-first century. In doing so, the Forum will seek to gain a clearer understanding of the language and intercultural skills required of citizens, and of the competences required of language specialists - within the paradigm of lifelong learning.
The programme and all of the presentations at the Forum can be found in the Archive.